Tricia Wang

Sociologist Tricia Wang discusses what is holding back China’s computing industry from creating disruptive innovation. The lack of a common story that binds the industry, is one of a set of shortcomings, she argues on her weblog. Perhaps with the exception of mobile: shanzai.

Tricia Wang:

I would like to point out an interesting story that comes from the mobile industry, the story of shanzai. What started out as a response from a few rogue mobile hardware producers in Southern China who wanted to avoid paying the government taxes on handset producers, has now spawned a whole industry of shanzai products that goes beyond the original definition of being cheap copies of existing products. Shanzai mobile makers did what Nokia, HTC, Samsung, and Motorola could not do – they met the user needs of millions of new cell[phone users (more on this topic from me). By working outside of the dominant infrastructure of mobile producers, shanzai makers went wild with producing mobile phones with new features that were relevant for low-end users. Shanzai mobiles has give the low-end market, that was once dominated by Nokia, a greater number of choices in mobiles at a lower cost. Shanzai is still in the process of moving beyond the perception of being a copy culture to a bottom-up innovation culture, so it is not a story that is embraced by the programming community at large right now.

All stories need a good enemy. For shanzai makers in China, it was the government that levied oppressive taxes. For hackers in the West, is was the education system that tried to prevent them from exploring self-directed learning. So who are the bad guys in the eyes of Chinese programmers?

More on Tricia Wang’s weblog


More about Tricia Wang, exploring China’s digital underbelly in Storify.

Tricia Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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